The NHS 2021/22 priorities and operational planning guidance, published by NHS England and NHS Improvement sets out the priorities for the year for local systems, with the recovery of services from Covid-19, meeting new care demands and reducing the backlogs that resulted from the pandemic key objectives.
Recovering elective services & reducing outpatient attendance
Among the primary ways the guidance recommends recovering elective services is to take advantage of high impact changes and transformative opportunities that arose from the pandemic, such as the rapid implementation of pathway changes. These also include:
- Implementing supporting tools for the tracking of waiting lists; clinical review and prioritisation; dynamic planning of elective capacity and shared capacity, demand and monitoring data
- Implementing high impact service models in elective care at system level such as dedicated fast track hubs for high volume, low complexity care with standardised clinical pathways; dedicated elective service pathways within acute sites
- Implementing whole pathway transformations and thereby improve performance in cardiac, musculoskeletal (MSK) and eye care
- Embedding outpatient transformation, taking all possible steps to avoid outpatient attendances of low clinical value and redeploying that capacity where it is needed, alongside increased mobilisation of Advice & Guidance
How does Vantage Health support these priorities?
Vantage Health supports the work on clinical pathway redesign and delivers outpatient transformation through its Rego Care Navigator platform that operationalises the pathways. Working closely with clinicians, commissioners and managers from primary and secondary care, the team is able to determine the most appropriate pathways and integrate them into the platform. The clinical pathways are then operationalised using AI, which automatically validates referrals against the pathways, helping clinicians to refer patients to the right care provider first time, reducing outpatient attendance. Regular reviews of the national and local pathways then take place, with the platform updated to reflect any changes.
Dynamic planning of elective care capacity is also enabled by the platform which provides GPs, providers and commissioners access to performance metrics and referral trends data, with commissioners able to track in-demand services.
Rego Care Navigator also has an Advice & Guidance function, allowing patient information to be sent from a GP, directly to an appropriate hospital consultant, with no paper or manual intervention; and to allow for the consultant to offer advice and guidance directly to the correct GP.
How has Vantage Health supported recovery and reduced outpatient attendance?
At the start of the pandemic, as hospitals struggled to cope with the unprecedented demand for their services, several CCGs and Trusts requested Vantage Health’s support to ensure that patients continued to receive appropriate care during this period. Vantage Health’s team responded by working with the hospitals and its first CCG to go live with Rego Care Navigator within six week, which resulted in 70% of patients receiving appropriate advice and treated in their homes or at their local surgeries.
The AI platform is also being used by 25,000 users including GPs, dentists and optometrist to refer patients to the right provider by automatically validating referrals against local pathways, reducing outpatient attendance by over 30%.
Supporting Community Diagnostic Hubs (CDHs)
Another recommendation of the planning guidance is the establishment of Community Diagnostic Hubs (CDHs) in order to reach the highest possible diagnostic activity volume, seen as critical to support elective recovery.
Establishing CDHs will separate the diagnostic services for acute and elective diagnostic with the intention of resolving the issue that urgent and routine patients often compete for the use of diagnostic testing capacity, which are mostly provided at acute hospitals. In time these would take almost all diagnostic tests requests from GPs as well as many of the requests from hospital outpatient services.
A crucial part of their setup is the integration of the diagnostic hubs into pathways so that they will be effectively used. Vantage Health’s Rego Care Navigator is able to support this as the pathways can be added to the platform so that clinician will easily be able to refer patients to the relevant hub, when appropriate.